Tuesday, 9 January 2007

2.0 ideas to stop OPACs sucking

I've read a large number of posts recently about 'Why my OPACs sucks' and so much has already been written that I don't want to repeat it all here. What I will do is look at 3 sites that have made me think about what they offer that our library website doesn't...

Yesterday Librarything hit nine million books catalogued - they blogged briefly about this and the point that caught my eye was "If LibraryThing were a "real" library, we'd now be the 10th largest in the country (ALA fact sheet)". No one forces people to catalogue their books on Librarything and yet over 95,000 people (latest figure I could find on the website) have signed up. Not only are people eagerly signing up but they are often willing to pay a subscription use the site (only necessary if you wish to add more than 200 books to your account). Imagine if your library catalogue was so good that people were eager to sign up and use it! Cataloguing books is simple and uses records from authoritative sources such as The British Library and the Library of Congress via their Z39.50 servers (best use I've seen of Z39.50 so far!). There are lots of ways to find new books to read, suggestions and unsuggestions are all intriguing - imagine looking at a library catalogue and seeing the words 'Don't Read This' above a book! Makes me want to read it! Most importantly the users have ownership, they choose to upload their books, they eagerly tag them, search for other books and share information with other users. We spend ages in libraries looking for innovative ways to get readers to review books or join reading groups but obviously there are plenty of people out there eager to share their opinions on books and we just aren't reaching them with our lovely old OPAC.

Only recently come across this site thanks to a mention on Phil Bradley's I want to blog. Here's the goal from their website

"The goal of BooksWellRead is to be the online destination of choice for people who want to 'digest' what they read by capturing their thoughts in writing. BooksWellRead has been designed to be simple, fast, and easy to use. We hope you like it and tell others about it!! By the numbers: 3007 books, 1016 entries, 389 members"

Obviously much smaller than LibraryThing but describes itself more as an online book journal than a library. It is designed for people who like to reflect on what they have read and possibly share those reflections with others. I have to admit that I haven't yet logged in and fully explored this site but I like the focus on thinking about what you've read rather than just listed everything you own. I can imagine using this to keep records of books I've borrowed from the library or wish lists of books I'd like to read. I'd like to see a library catalogue that allowed you to add books to your basket and then save them to a wish list which you could look at and amend whenever you logged in (or even upload to something like BooksWellRead or your Amazon wish list). And a free text comment section to remind yourself why you added it to the basket in the first place! Again the key is fun of reading other people reviews and the curiousity factor of seeing what else that person has read.

Both LibraryThing and BooksWellRead demonstrate what we already know about readers in libraries - everyone likes to know what other people have read and recently returned and love to have other people's opinions on a book even if they just want to disagree with it!

This is a site that interests me because of my involvement in interlibrary loans. Basically it is NetFlix for books. You create a list of books you would like to read - they suggest having at least 10-15 titles on your list at all times - and you get new books on your list when you return the ones you have. They have different subscription levels depending on how many books at a time you wish to have from $8.49 a month for 2 books to $34.99 a month for 12 books. The books are sent direct to the user in the post and a pre-paid return mailer is included to return the books. They have more than 79,800 titles in their paperbacks range and do not charge any late fees. They also have a CD/MP3 audiobooks service. There is even an option to keep the book you have rented if you really like it (only for post-1995 publications). I couldn't find any information on the site about how many people have signed up to this service but according to their press information they have been around since 2000 so they must be doing pretty well! I'm really interested in ways that public libraries can provide direct delivery of books to readers. There's a great article on Techessence looking at Library Delivery 2.0 which looks at how Netflix and Amazon are changing people's expectations. David Lee King's blog post The "Missing Piece" of the Library Netflix Model pointed out that Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library have been mailing all holds to patrons since the 1970s (for UK folk that's sending requests to borrowers in the post!) and their director describes it as one of the most important library services. Is this something that libraries in the UK could provide either as a free or premium rate service? At the moment we usually charge just to request a book on the shelf at a different branch so not sure how much we would have to charge for a postal service, especially for an item of indeterminate weight or size.

Would love to know if any public libraries in the UK are trialling something like this or coming up with innovative 2.0 changes to their websites...


Anonymous said...

Tried booksfree and it doesn't work as currently configured. Shipments are free, sure, but they take 8 days (or more) each way to WA. So $14.99 for 4 books a month, and assuming you take 2 to 7 days to read a book ... you do the math. You can't possibly get more than one full shipment a month so that's $15 for 4 books.
Only very very slightly better than purchasing used from amazon. And purchasing used you can resell or keep or donate to your local library, and you don't feel pressured to GET IT READ and in the mail. Really did not like having to keep thinking, gotta read it and get it in the mail quick. Blech.

CC said...

Have you seen Amazon's Your Media Library or Shelfari?

As the name implies, Your Media Library is like Delicious Library in that you can catalogue anything. But like LT, Shelfari is book based and has a growing community.

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